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The Trail You Blaze

I don't know how I stayed in Florida for nine years. For someone who loves nature and being outside, I somehow tolerated living in a region where I found the outdoors almost uniformly uncomfortable. It's hot and muggy just about year round, with a couple of days of reprieve somewhere in January.

Sure, there's the beach, but there's only so much to do there. The shuttle launches were actually pretty amazing.

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What's really astounding, though, is to think of people in the past, before air conditioning and electricity, who nevertheless still chose to make regions of blazing heat their home. If you visit museums or dig into historical narratives of early America you'll see them settling in places like Sedona, Corpus Christi, or Orlando. Why???

More than once I've marveled at photos of these bygone days, and the people who not only lived without modern comforts, but are often shown in layers and layers of clothing. It's really unthinkable to me.

Of course, they never knew the sensation of opening a door and being greeted by the cold blast of industrial-grade A/C, or the privilege of opening a cooler and snapping open a beverage that could've been transported directly from the arctic. They had no idea what comforts awaited future generations.

Here in Colorado, hiking among rocky hills and wooded slopes and enjoying the crisp air, I'm reminded that this too was once a place of struggle. As I follow Samson happily down the trail, my car parked at the trailhead, I know that at some point in history somebody trudged through this very landscape without any of the goodies I've got with me, without a powered home waiting for them at the end of the day.

Every mountain highway, every scenic trail we enjoy and take for granted was once somebody's crucible. The mountaintops where we take smiling selfies were the challenge that threatened likely death, the victory whose accolades would have to wait for years--that's if you survived the return trip.

And for someone down the road, maybe someone who you don't yet know and maybe never will, who perhaps isn't even alive yet--that is what your struggle today will be.

We press into the unknown, choosing the discomfort of discovery and discipline, not only because we want the freedom and joy we haven't yet known (which is no small thing itself), but because others have so much to gain from our coming fully alive.

Because our stories aren't just for us.


Mike Ensley, MA, LPCC is a nationally board-certified counselor in Loveland, CO.


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